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Margaret Cavendish
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Book description

It is often thought that the numerous contradictory perspectives in Margaret Cavendish's writings demonstrate her inability to reconcile her feminism with her conservative, royalist politics. In this book Lisa Walters challenges this view and demonstrates that Cavendish's ideas more closely resemble republican thought, and that her methodology is the foundation for subversive political, scientific and gender theories. With an interdisciplinary focus Walters closely examines Cavendish's work and its context, providing the reader with an enriched understanding of women's contribution to early modern scientific theory, political philosophy, culture and folklore. Considering also Cavendish's ideas in relation to Hobbes and Paracelsus, this volume is of great interest to scholars and students of literature, philosophy, history of ideas, political theory, gender studies and history of science.


‘This book admirably demonstrates that Cavendish was a sophisticated thinker who actively engaged with, and fearlessly challenged, the dominant political and scientific ideas of her time. Walters' text is the result of much painstaking research and careful analysis – it will undoubtedly convince readers that Cavendish's philosophical vision was even more radical than previously thought.'

Jacqueline Broad - Monash University, Victoria

'Walters's book is most helpful in examining Cavendish's complex thinking in a new way … Recommended. Graduate students, researchers [and] faculty.'

M. Cole Source: Choice

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Works by Margaret Cavendish

‘Assaulted and Pursued Chastity’ [1656], in Margaret Cavendish: The Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley. London: Penguin Books, 1994, 45–118.
ccxi Sociable Letters. London, 1664.
‘The Contract’ [1656], in Margaret Cavendish: The Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley. London: Penguin Books, 1994, 1–44.
The Convent of Pleasure, in Playes. London, 1662.
‘The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World’ [1666], in Margaret Cavendish: The Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. Kate Lilley. London: Penguin Books, 1994, 119–225.
Grounds of Natural Philosophy. London, 1668.
The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William Cavendishe, Duke, Marquess and Earl of Newcastle. London: A. Maxwell, 1667.
Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life. London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1656.
Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, To which is added, The Description of a new Blazing World. London: A. Maxwell, 1666.
Orations. London, 1662.
Philosophical and Physical Opinions. London, 1663.
The Philosophical and Physical Opinions. London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1655.
Philosophical Fancies. London, 1653.
Philosophical Letters: or, Modest Reflections Upon Some Opinions in Natural Philosophy, Maintained by Several Famous and Learned Authors of This Age, Expressed by Way of Letters. London, 1664.
Poems and Fancies. London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1653; rev. edn 1664.
The Worlds Olio. London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1655.

Other works

Akkerman, Nadine and Corporaal, Marguérite. ‘Mad Science beyond Flattery: The Correspondence of Margaret Cavendish and Constantijn Huygens’. Early Modern Literary Studies 14.2 (2004): 1–21.
Barnes, Diana. ‘Familiar Epistolary Philosophy: Margaret Cavendish’s Philosophical Letters (1664)’. Parergon 26.2 (2009): 39–64.
Battigelli, Anna. Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1998.
Boyle, Deborah. ‘Fame, Virtue, and Government: Margaret Cavendish on Ethics and Politics’. Journal of the History of Ideas 67.2 (2006): 251–90.
Briggs, Katharine M. The Anatomy of Puck: An Examination of Fairy Beliefs among Shakespeare’s Contemporaries and Successors. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1959.
Briggs, Katharine M. The Vanishing People: A Study of Traditional Fairy Beliefs. London: Batsford, 1978.
Broad, Jacqueline. ‘Cavendish, van Helmont, and the Mad Raging Womb’, in Judy A. Hayden (ed.), The New Science and Women’s Literary Discourse: Prefiguring Frankenstein. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 47–63.
Broad, JacquelineWomen Philosophers of the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Broad, Jacqueline and Green, Karen. A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400–1700. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Buccola, Regina. Fairies, Fractious Women, and the Old Faith: Fairy Lore in Early Modern British Drama and Culture. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2006.
Burgess, Glenn. Absolute Monarchy and the Stuart Constitution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
Butler, Todd Wayne. Imagination and Politics in Seventeenth-Century England. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008.
Catty, Jocelyn. Writing Rape, Writing Women in Early Modern England: Unbridled Speech. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1999.
Chalmers, Hero. ‘Dismantling the Myth of “Mad Madge”: The Cultural Context of Margaret Cavendish’s Authorial Self-Presentation’. Women’s Writing 4.3 (1997): 323–40.
Clucas, Stephen (ed.). A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.
Cottegnies, Line and Weitz, Nancy (eds.). Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003.
Cunning, David. ‘Cavendish on the Intelligibility of the Prospect of Thinking Matter’. History of Philosophy Quarterly 23.2 (2006): 117–36.
Cunning, David‘Margaret Lucas Cavendish’, in Edward N Zalta (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford: The Metaphysics Research Lab, 2012, 45–6.
DeGroot, Jerome. Royalist Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Detlefsen, Karen. ‘Margaret Cavendish and Thomas Hobbes on Freedom, Education, and Women’, in Nancy J. Hirschmann and Joanne H. Wright (eds.), Feminist Interpretations of Thomas Hobbes. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012, 149–68.
Detlefsen, KarenMargaret Cavendish on the Relation between God and World’. Philosophy Compass 4.2 (2009): 421–38.
Detlefsen, KarenReason and Freedom: Margaret Cavendish on the Order and Disorder of Nature’. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89 (2007): 157–91.
Fudge, Erica. Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern English Culture. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
Gallagher, Catherine. ‘Embracing the Absolute: The Politics of the Female Subject in Seventeenth-Century England’. Genders 1 (1988): 24–39.
Gillespie, Katharine. Domesticity and Dissent in the Seventeenth Century: English Women’s Writing and the Public Sphere. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Gowing, Laura. Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-Century England. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan, ed. Richard Tuck. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Holmesland, Oddvar. ‘Margaret Cavendish’s “The Blazing World”: Natural Art and the Body Politic’. Studies in Philology 96.4 (1999): 457–79.
Hughes, Ann. The Causes of the English Civil War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.
Hunter, Michael. Science and the Shape of Orthodoxy: Intellectual Change in Late Seventeenth-Century Britain. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1995.
Hutton, Sarah. ‘In Dialogue with Thomas Hobbes: Margaret Cavendish’s Natural Philosophy’. Women’s Writing 4.3 (1997): 421–32.
Iyengar, Sujata. ‘Royalist, Romancist, Racialist: Rank, Gender, and Race in the Science and Fiction of Margaret Cavendish’. English Literary History 69.3 (2002): 649–72.
Jacobi, Jolande (ed.). Selected Writings by Paracelsus, trans. Norbert Guterman, 2nd edn. Princeton University Press, 1995.
James, Susan (ed.). Margaret Cavendish: Political Writings. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Kahn, Victoria. ‘Margaret Cavendish and the Romance of Contract’. Renaissance Quarterly 50.2 (1997): 526–66.
Keller, Eve. ‘Producing Petty Gods: Margaret Cavendish’s Critique of Experimental Science’. English Literary History 64.2 (1997): 447–71.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. Reflections on Gender and Science. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.
Lilley, Kate (ed.). Margaret Cavendish: ‘The Blazing World’ and Other Writings. London: Penguin Books, 1992.
McElligott, Jason. Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007.
Mendelson, Sara and Crawford, Patricia. Women in Early Modern England, 1550–1720. Oxford University Press, 2003.
Mikalachki, Jodi. The Legacy of Boadicea: Gender and Nation in Early Modern England. London: Routledge, 1998.
Mintz, Samuel I. The Hunting of Leviathan: Seventeenth-Century Reactions to the Materialism and Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. Cambridge University Press, 1962.
Oldridge, Darren (ed.). The Witchcraft Reader. London: Routledge, 2002.
O’Neill, Eileen (ed.). Margaret Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Osler, Margaret J. Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy: Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World. Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Paster, Gail Kern. The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.
Paster, Gail KernThe Unbearable Coldness of Female Being: Women’s Imperfection and the Humoral Economy’. English Literary Renaissance 28.3 (2008): 416–40.
Pateman, Carol. The Sexual Contract. Stanford University Press, 1988.
Purkiss, Diane. Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories. London: Penguin Books, 2000.
Purkiss, DianeThe Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations. London: Routledge, 1996.
Rees, Emma. Gender, Genre, Exile. Manchester University Press, 2004.
Rogers, John. The Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry, and Politics in the Age of Milton, 2nd edn. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.
Sarasohn, Lisa. The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy during the Scientific Revolution. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
Sawday, Jonathan. The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture. London: Routledge, 1995.
Schiebinger, Londa. ‘Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle’, in Mary Ellen Waithe (ed.), A History of Modern Women Philosophers, vol. iii, 1600–1900, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991, 1–20.
Semler, L. E.Margaret Cavendish’s Early Engagement with Descartes and Hobbes: Philosophical Revisitation and Poetic Selection’. Intellectual History Review 22.3 (2012): 327–53.
Shapin, Steven. The Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Sim, Stuart and Walker, David. The Discourse of Sovereignty, Hobbes to Fielding: The State of Nature and the Nature of the State. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.
Skinner, Quentin. ‘Freedom as the Absence of Arbitrary Power’, in Cécile Laborde and John Maynor (eds.), Republicanism and Political Theory. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008, 83–101.
Skinner, QuentinLiberty before Liberalism. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Smith, David L. Constitutional Royalism and the Search for Settlement, c. 1640–1649. Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Smith, Hilda L. ‘“A General War amongst the Men … But None amongst the Women”: Political Differences between Margaret and William Cavendish’, in Howard Nenner (ed.), Politics and the Political Imagination in Later Stuart Britain: Essays Presented to Lois Green Schwoerer. University of Rochester Press, 1997, 143–60.
Smith, Hilda L., Suzuki, Mihoko and Wiseman, Susan. Women’s Political Writings, 1610–1725. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2007.
Smith, Nigel. Literature and Revolution in England, 1640–1660. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.
Stevenson, Jay. ‘The Mechanist-Vitalist Soul of Margaret Cavendish’. Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 36.3 (1996): 527–43.
Suzuki, Mihoko. Subordinate Subjects: Gender, the Political Nation, and Literary Form in England, 1588–1688. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003.
Trubowitz, Rachel. ‘The Reenchantment of Utopia and the Female Monarchical Self: Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World’. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 1.2 (1992): 229–45.
Valletta, Frederick. Witchcraft, Magic and Superstition in England, 1640–70. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000.
Wagner, Geraldine. ‘Romancing Multiplicity: Female Subjectivity and the Body Divisible in Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World’. Early Modern Literary Studies 9.1 (2003),
Wall, Wendy. Staging Domesticity: Household Work and English Identity in Early Modern Drama. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Whitaker, Katie. Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen. New York: Basic Books, 2002.
Williamson, Marilyn. Raising Their Voices: British Women Writers, 1650–1750. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1990.
Wynne-Davies, Marion. ‘“The Swallowing Womb”: Consumed and Consuming Women in Titus Andronicus’, in Valerie Wayne (ed.), The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991, 129–51.


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